FAIRMONT — Third place is the pick of Three Rivers Conference football coaches for East Bladen and eighth place is the slot forecast for West Bladen.
The 10 gentlemen piloting their respective programs gathered for a media session Thursday at Fairmont High and participated in a polling. South Columbus and Whiteville each garnered five first-place votes and shared the top spot.
Red Springs and St. Pauls rounded out the top half of the league. Sixth was Fairmont, followed by South Robeson, the Knights, East Columbus and West Columbus.
A year ago, league tri-champions East Bladen and South Columbus each won 12 games and Whiteville 11. The other seven teams finished in the same order as forecast for 2018.
“We lost 2,000 pounds off the offensive and defensive lines,” said East Bladen head coach Robby Priest. “We’ll get better as the season goes along.”
Chatting with a colleague at his team’s scrimmage later in the evening, he said his squad would get better when it gets cold, adding with a chuckle he’s anxious to see the weather turn soon.
In contrast, South Columbus head coach Russell Dove said four offensive linemen are back and his entire defensive line. First-year Whiteville head coach J.T. Price, whose father and renowned prep coach Joey will be assisting, inherits quarterback Ty Moss, the league’s offensive Player of the Year a season ago.
“We’re super young,” Knights’ head coach Kris Williams said in describing his team. He added there is an air of excitement around camp in returning quarterback Tyre Boykin.
West Bladen scrimmaged in Cumberland County against Gray’s Creek on Thursday and hosts Harrells on Saturday morning at 10.
Red Springs’ Lawrence Ches is looking to fill eight spots on both offense and defense, all held by the same eight seniors last year. St. Pauls has a familiar face back in first-year head coach Mike Setzer, and a boost to the offense in Lumberton transfer Quamadre Cannady. The senior receiver’s father is part of the coaching staff for Setzer, both of whom were at Lumberton last year.
Coaches Kevin Inman of Fairmont and James Hobbs of East Columbus mentioned youth with their squads. Clay Jernigan of South Robeson has a third-year quarterback and plenty of beef up front while James Pierce of West Columbus hailed his team’s only three seniors as standout leaders of the underclassmen throughout the offseason.
East Bladen and West Bladen each open the regular season Aug. 24. The state’s first playing date is Aug. 17.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.